Britain’s John Whitaker finished the Longines Global Champions Tour of Vienna as he started – with a spectacular win.
Miami winners John Whitaker and Bertram Allen as Valkenswaard United were again a formidable partnership in the Longines Global Champions League Vienna leg, and extended their lead at the top of the leaderboard.
A high-quality field provided two teams on double clears and a zero score – it was all down to the clock. Valkenswaard United were pitted against Rome Gladiators Laura Renwick on Bintang partnering Jack Towell aboard Emilie De Diamant AS.
But John and Bertram had it all sewn up, claiming victory by three and half sec.
"It is getting serious now so it was really good to win today – we’re a good team,” said John.
Michael Whitaker on Valentin R partnered the on-form Harrie Smolders (Capital Colnardo) as the Antwerp Diamonds to take fourth on eight faults.
They finished just ahead of the Miami Glory duo of Scott Brash (Hello M’Lord) and Jessica Mendoza (Constance) – also on eight but almost six sec in arrears.
The win extends Valkenswaard United’s lead at the top of the leader-board, but it is close. The Antwerp Diamonds are just 8.5 points behind and the Monaco Aces are in third by only 1.5 points. The Rome Gladiators stand fourth with just one competition to go – Doha.
“It could not have been closer going into today with only 1.5 points between us and the next team. It’s more now, but not by much,” said Bertram.
Tactics came into play in Vienna as teams fielded their strongest riders, and it is all to play for in the final at Doha.
“We’ll just try to keep the pressure on and keep going clear so Bertram can keep going fast in the second round,” said John. “We think about ourselves [rather than our rivals], we’re focused and try to jump clear rounds. I’m terrible watching – it doesn’t worry me one little bit riding, but whem I’m watching Bertram I’m a nervous wreck!”
Bertram is thrilled to be partnered with the legendary John Whitaker.
“It’s an honour to ride with John. We’ve always had good fun and good results, it’s been great,” he said.
The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders claimed a sensational win in the Vienna Masters 5* 1.55m with two great rounds on the impressive Diamant De Semilly 12-year-old Don VHP Z – a highly-rated stallion produced in Britain by Louise Pavitt for Brendon Stud. Only eight of the 29 starters survived to tackle the second speed round which featured longer distances, encouraging the horses to open up. But delicate 1.55m verticals and substantial oxers demanded accuracy and respect.
Don VHP’s huge stride ate up the ground, and his agility to take the turns at a fast pace gave them the edge, and Harrie claimed the win by half a sec from Italy’s Emanuele Gaudino on Casper 232.
Ireland’s Bertram Allen slotted Izzy By Picobello into fourth behind Germany’s Andreas Kreuzer with Stalido. It wasn’t the day for Britain’s sole competitor in this class – John Whitaker and Echo of Light has 12 faults.
Placed every day, Abbie Summers and the Quality sired 11-year-old Quantas finished Vienna on a good note with third in the Silver tour 1.30m final, just 0.88 sec behind the winner.
Photos © LGCT/Stefano Grasso